Revitalization

Old + New = Green: CASA de Maryland’s New Balancing Act

Posted on: May 29th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

Written by Erica Stewart

This Place Matters! (Photo: mario Quiroz)

This Place Matters! (Photo: mario Quiroz)

A broken bone in my foot and thirty-odd sawdust covered steps didn’t diminish my appreciation for the transformation that CASA de Maryland is leading at the McCormick-Goodhart Mansion in Langley Park, Maryland. I joined a group of National Trust for Historic Preservation members and staff recently for a tour of the former grand country home that will become a multicultural center for the extremely diverse and under-served community outside its doorstep. Despite the fancy-footwork-on-crutches that my visit required, I was thrilled to witness this exciting marriage of many important ideals that underpin that buzzword on everyone’s lips: sustainability. The presentation and hard hat tour clearly illustrated how, after years of negotiation, compromise and fundraising, historic preservation, community development, and green building are neatly conjoined in this currently very messy rehabilitation project.

First, a little context. The Georgian Revival McCormick-Goodhart Mansion was built in 1924 amid a vast 565-acre estate. Decades later, the mansion was vacated and a crop of low-income, garden style apartments sprung up around the edges of the home. The surrounding community is one of the most diverse in all of Maryland, with residents hailing from all corners of the globe: French-speaking Africa, India, Central America and Poland, to name a few. Per capita income is just $11,300 and more than 150 languages are spoken at the local elementary school.

Back-view rendering by Bucher/Borges Group, LLC.

Back-view rendering by Bucher/Borges Group, LLC.

This environment makes the McCormick-Goodhart Mansion the perfect home for CASA. The nonprofit was founded in a church basement in1985 to serve the basic, immediate needs of the primarily Latino immigrant community in Maryland: food, shelter, health care. As that community has grown and evolved, so has CASA. That evolution necessitated a larger facility from which to serve its ever-growing client base. Enter Sawyer Realty LLC, owner of the badly weather-damaged mansion. At the cost of $1, ownership was transferred to CASA in 2007 and an ambitious fundraising campaign began. A key component was the complex historic tax credit deal brokered by the National Trust Community Investment Corporation that secured $12 million in state/federal historic and New Markets Tax Credit equity from Enterprise Foundation and Bank of America.

Once the rehab is completed, CASA’s new headquarters will house its expanded programs: financial literacy classes, computer literacy classes, a justice center for pursuing legal and civil rights issues, and cafeteria for service industry training. Several other social service organizations that specialize in serving other minority populations will take up residence as well, ensuring that the region’s many immigrant communities receive the best possible assistance.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

 

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Written by Jeff Eichenfield

KoreaTown-Northgate is a lively but long-neglected commercial corridor along Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, California that is seeing a lot of positive change these days due to efforts of a group of property owners who have banded together to revitalize the district under the multi-culti tagline “Oakland’s Got Seoul.”

The idea to form a “Koreatown” in Oakland has been kicking around for more than 10 years because there are a large number of Korean-American businesses and service groups along Telegraph Avenue. But it wasn’t until 2007 that property owners voted to create a property-based business improvement district that raises more than $250,000 annually to organize the effort.

Telegraph Lofts involved the conversion of the old Sears Roebuck building at 2633 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland's Koreatown into 54 live/work units, 11,000 square feet of retail space and 28,000 square feet of self-storage.  A new penthouse level and an open-air atrium are key components of this successful adaptive use.

Telegraph Lofts involved the conversion of the old Sears Roebuck building at 2633 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland's Koreatown into 54 live/work units, 11,000 square feet of retail space and 28,000 square feet of self-storage. A new penthouse level and an open-air atrium are key components of this successful adaptive use.

Darlene Drapkin of Urban Transformation and I were hired last August as contract staff. We are long time Main Street program devotees, having managed local Main Street programs and having worked with the National Main Street Center as consultants on numerous occasions. It’s been very helpful, and natural, for us to organize our efforts in Koreatown-Northgate using the Four Point Main Street Approach to Revitalization.

One of the most interesting aspects of the program is that the district is not all Korean… far from it. There are African-American, West African, Muslim, Arab, and Caucasian owned businesses as well. Our challenge is work with all these cultural groups on a common vision… one that respects the current cultural mix but recognizes the value of attracting more Korean investors in order to carve out a unique identity that will make the district stand out in the marketplace and bring in more income for all.

Our first order of business has been to make sure the district is clean and orderly, so we hired a sidewalk maintenance service and a street ambassador who walks the area every day, meeting and greeting business owners and looking for graffiti, illegal dumping, drug dealing, and other problems. We also instituted a program that removes graffiti from private property at no charge. And we have been meeting regularly with the Oakland Police Department to increase patrols and address security concerns.

Oakland's Got Seoul banners.

Oakland's Got Seoul banners.

Our second order of business has been to brand the district and enhance its visual appeal. Our Design Committee just installed beautiful “Oakland’s Got Seoul” street banners. Their unveiling ceremony attracted over 150 individuals, including many from the Korean press and the Korean Consul General’s office. Other projects being discussed include gateway treatments and murals involving local artists and youth.

With the district looking and feeling good, our Promotions Committee is planning our first annual Koreatown-Northgate Festival to be held this September 19, 2009. The festival will showcase the diverse cultures and business opportunities in the district. And a multi-cultural BBQ contest will be part of the fun!

Learn more:

Jeff Eichenfield is the executive director of the KoreaTown-Northgate Community Benefit District. Contact him by email at jeff[at]KoreatownNorthgate[dot]org (replace the words in brackets with the customary symbols), by phone at 510-343-5439 (ext.3), or online at www.revitalized-downtowns.com.

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Historic Theatre, New Act

Posted on: April 17th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

Written by Erica Stewart

Our friends at the CenterStage Foundation have been keeping us informed of a fabulous project underway to create a new identify for a venerable historic theatre. The Richmond (Virginia) CenterStage project rehabs the Carpenter Theatre, a once-grand movie house, and integrates it into a brand new performing arts complex next door.  Built in 1928 as the Loew's Theatre, the Carpenter had an elegant interior and a dark brick exterior ornamented with sculpted terra cotta and limestone. Like many downtown theatres, it could not survive the demographic shift to the suburbs and the Carpenter was shuttered in 1979.

The  rehab returns the theatre to grandeur and beyond, expanding its stage size, improving acoustics and updating amenities and public spaces to create a more inviting environment for performers and patrons alike. This will create a top-notch venue for symphonies, dance troupes, Broadway shows and concerts from near and far.

The $25 million will be financed in part by a $12 million federal historic and New Markets Tax Credit equity investment by the National Trust Community Investment Corporation, the for profit subsidiary of the National Trust.

Once the Richmond CenterStage project is completed, the Carpenter will complement the 80,000 square-foot Dorothy Pauley Square that will contain three venues, including an intimate setting for small nonprofit theater groups, educational workspaces and a visual arts gallery.

Without further ado, let's take a look:

At the rear of the Orchestra level in the Carpenter Theatre, the ceiling restoration is nearly complete.

At the rear of the Orchestra level in the Carpenter Theatre, the ceiling restoration is nearly complete.

Work to re-rake the mezzanine and balconies to provide better sight lines as well as accessible seating is well underway, as seen from peering between newly restored ight fixtures at the house-right sky loft.

Work to re-rake the mezzanine and balconies to provide better sight lines as well as accessible seating is well underway, as seen from peering between newly restored ight fixtures at the house-right sky loft.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

Oakland's Restored Fox Theater "Worth the Trip"

Posted on: February 10th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 5 Comments

 

Sign

The sign for the Fox Theater, Oakland.

Oakland, California. San Francisco’s New Jersey, snarky bridge & tunnel references and all. (As a proud Jersey boy, I think I’m allowed to say that.)

Oakland also has to contend with one of the most frequently repeated quotes about an American city -- yes, I’m talking about Gertrude Stein’s observation about Oakland that “there is no there there.”

Ms. Stein was not, as almost everyone assumes, comparing her native Oakland to her adopted Paris and suggesting that Oakland was a podunk town lacking in substance. Rather, the remark stems from a visit she made to Oakland in the 1930s as part of a book tour. While there, she went to visit her childhood home and couldn’t find the house. It’s not a catty quip, it’s a melancholy reflection of a disconnect from childhood memories.

Still, the misunderstanding of the quote stubbornly lives on, as does the latent snobbery toward Oakland that’s just below the surface of many resident’s of “the City” across the bay. Having made my home in San Francisco for 17 years, I’m afraid I’m part of the problem -- I tend to treat the San Francisco Bay crossing as if it were the Straits of Gibraltar rather than the three-mile wide puddle it is. In my defense, I don’t own a car, and I know just a wee bit too much about what could happen to the BART tubes in the Big One to want to make the crossing on a regular basis.

Performers took the stage during the opening.

Performers took the stage during the opening.

But if I’m part of Oakland’s problem and have played my own small role in holding back a long overdue urban renaissance in Downtown Oakland, I’m ready to make amends. Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Grand Opening of the Fox Oakland Theater, and I gotta say, I was blown away. If Oakland too frequently comes up short in head-to-head comparisons with San Francisco, its time to recognize a fundamental fact: Somehow, a profound attack of cultural amnesia allowed San Francisco’s magnificent 1929 Fox Theatre to be demolished just months after its closure in 1963. The Fox Oakland could easily have met the same fate, but Oaklanders never completely gave up on their Fox Theater, which opened the year before the San Francisco Fox and closed thee years after the closure of its sibling across the bay.

The next few decades were not kind to the Fox, but somehow it survived. In 1996, the City of Oakland purchased the Fox. Two years later, recognizing that the Fox was still at risk, the Oakland Heritage Alliance put the Fox on its endangered list, and shortly thereafter spun off the Friends of the Oakland Fox. That same year the City made a commitment to begin repairs, and Jerry Brown was elected Mayor. In a series of acts of faith, pride, and a little bravado, Oakland moved at first haltingly, then full force with the restoration of the Fox. Many organizations and people can claim a role in the rebirth of the Fox, but the support and vision of Mayor Brown and the tireless efforts and sheer exuberance of developer Phil Tagami were key.

The restored ticket booth.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation played its part too. I had the dubious pleasure of touring the theater after its purchase by the City when the roof was shot and it was a petri dish for every mold, mildew, and fungus known to man. Recognizing Oakland had a diamond in the rough, in 2003, we provided a $5,000 Mitchell Grant for Historic Interiors to hire a conservator for the restoration of the Hindu deity statues that are one of the highlights of the interior. Two years ago, we provided a $75,000 grant for the restoration of the Art Deco ticket booth through the American Express Partners in Preservation program. Finally, the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC),  in partnership with the Bank of America, made an $11 million Historic Rehab & New Markets Tax Credit Equity Investment in the rehabilitation project.

So, this then, is the tale of two Foxes, or maybe the tortoise and the hare. On the one hand we have San Francisco (a/k/a the hare) which long ago rid itself of an obsolete liability, and left itself with a sad reminder of what we’ve lost in the cruelly-named eyesore that is the Fox Plaza.

The neon-lit lobby of the theater.

The neon-lit lobby of the theater.

Tortoisey Oakland, on the other hand, made no rash decisions. Sure, it took some patience (the Oakland Fox has been closed longer than it was open) but eventually the stars aligned. The results, as I said, are stupendous. I’ve been around preservation long enough to see some remarkable transformations, but this one left me slack-jawed (and no, that wasn’t a result of the freely-flowing champagne).

So San Francisco, you can’t win ‘em all. But take solace in the fact that the best place to see a concert in the Bay Area is just across the Bay. A short ride on BART will deliver you to just about to the Fox ticket booth. Trust me, it’s worth the trip.

-- Anthony Veerkamp

Anthony Veerkamp a senior program officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Western Office.

Updated 2/11/09 to note the partnership between NTCIC and Bank of America

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

The Stage is Set for Oakland's Fox Theater to be a Huge Hit

Posted on: February 5th, 2009 by National Trust for Historic Preservation 1 Comment

 

This former vaudeville theatre re-opens tonight after $70 million rehabilitation, which followed a prolonged period of vacancy and decay. (Photo: © 2009 Nathanael Bennett)

This former vaudeville theatre re-opens tonight after $70 million rehabilitation, which followed a prolonged period of vacancy and decay. (Photo: © 2009 Nathanael Bennett)

If I could somehow pry myself loose from the crush of my current workload and from the marvelous entanglements presented at home by my two small children, I would be on my way from DC to Oakland, California right now. Why? No, not because flying to Oakland is a cheaper way to get to San Francisco. I mean I wish I was in Oakland. At 1807 Telegraph, to be exact. Tonight the Fox Theatre is opening its doors for the first time in forty years. Thanks to a whole lot of dough (including $11.4 million in tax credit equity from our very own National Trust Community Investment Corporation) and a whole lot of courage from a lot of stubborn and resourceful people, this beloved landmark that had been essentially left for dead is no longer playing to a house full of fungi. (I’m not exaggerating: back in the 90s, when the place was long abandoned, the leaky roof let mushrooms take root. Pretty sure they didn’t pay admission.)

Tonight, the Fox will host a grand opening gala event with a program of top-notch performers to celebrate this $70 million achievement. But it’s not the entertainment that has me mentally tallying my frequent flier miles and considering my post-pregnancy wardrobe (neither is very inspiring). It’s the theatre itself, of course. Tonight’s lucky attendees will behold its mystical golden deities, its Art Deco ticket booth (painstakingly restored thanks to a $75,000 grant from the Trust’s joint program with American Express, Partners in Preservation), its opulent dome -- all looking as resplendent as they did on opening night in 1928. This vaudeville theatre defined the glamour of uptown Oakland, where sweethearts could spend a magical evening, where families relaxed together, dazzled by an interior so fine the theatre was originally to be named the Bagdad [sic] — so think Baghdad circa 800 A.D., not 2003. And today’s Fox Oakland is certainly befitting of its glorious past. In addition to becoming a world-class performing arts center, it also now houses a tuition-free public charter school for the arts. So as grand as the Fox was back in 1928, I believe it is even better today.

In its heyday, the theatre drew crowds with it Mighty Wurlitzer organ, live shows and “talkies,” those novel moving pictures with sound. Like most downtown theatres, its demise was hastened by the television and the advent of suburban multiplexes. The theater’s descent was mercilessly slow: it stopped showing first-run films in 1962, briefly dabbled in softcore porn films, was hit by an arsonist in 1973, was threatened with demolition to make way for a parking lot in 1975 -- and of course there was that indignity with the mushrooms.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.